“One minute you’re standing strong,” writes Adam Appleson, founder of ZenTactics, “and the next minute a cutting remark or something they do just rips you apart emotionally.
“You’re trying your best to break new ground in your life, and all of a sudden someone is saying ‘you can’t do it’ or some other negative remark.”
Adam isn’t talking about your worst enemy, or some rude stranger. He’s referring to the people in our lives that can hurt us the most—our family members.
This last week I finally got a chance to see “The Fighter,” the award-winning movie starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. If you haven’t seen it, it’s the story of boxer “Irish” Mickey Ward and his trainer brother Dick Eklund, chronicling the brothers’ early days on the rough streets of Lowell, Massachusetts through Eklund’s battle with drugs and Ward’s eventual world championship in London.
What struck me early on in the movie was Mickey’s struggle to come into his own power and find the courage to speak his truth.
When Others are Overbearing
Always in the shadow of his older brother, Dicky, he spends years training with him in an attempt to get his own career to take off.
Granted, Dicky knows his stuff, gives great advice, and loves his brother to pieces. But he’s a crack addict, so he shows up late for training, disappears for days at a time and has to be tracked down and physically dragged to the car to make it to Mickey’s fights.
Mickey’s mother is no better. Though she loves her son, her “managing” efforts leave much to be desired, as we see clearly when she and Dicky allow Mickey to get beaten to a pulp by a boxer who weighs twenty pounds more than he does.
Mickey gets an offer to go to Los Vegas and train—and get paid for his time—but his overbearing family will hear nothing of it, and he lacks the gumption to speak out for himself.
It’s not until a tough bartender named Charlene (Amy Adams) falls in love with him and stands beside him, that he gains the courage to tell his family exactly what he wants. That one simple decision leads to not only Mickey’s triumph, but his brother’s, as well.
The Roles We Play in Families
Our families have strong holds on us, and in many ways, that’s a blessing, but sometimes it can hold us back.
These people we’ve shared so many years with have a certain vision of us, a certain role that they’re comfortable with us playing. The quiet younger brother. The level-headed older sister. The funny baby of the family.
When we try to break out of that mold, they resist. Usually it’s because they fear change. Often it’s because they fear that somehow they will lose their connection with us should we follow a new path that is unfamiliar to them.
“One of the struggles that clients often share with me are the negative responses from family, friends and co-workers when they reveal their new goals and dreams,” writes Allison Maslan, life and business strategist. “Although these people may have the best intentions in offering their advice, it is often clouded with their own fears of failure, insecurity, the unknown, and many more limiting beliefs. These beliefs are illusions, yet when you give into them, they can overpower your life and hold you back from your own greatness.”
When We Stand Up For Ourselves, We Benefit Others as Well
With Charlene’s help, Mickey breaks away from the family dysfunction that surrounds his drug-addicted brother and strikes out on his own. He builds a solid boxing career, with several wins under his belt.
Meanwhile, Dickey cleans up and gets his life back together, and at the end of the movie (spoiler alert), manages to be at his brother’s side for the most important fight of his career.
The movie, so well directed and acted, clearly demonstrates the benefits of finding the courage to speak up for ourselves. When those closest to us don’t understand, we have to have faith that eventually, they will.
Even if they don’t, continuing to play a role that no longer suits us does no one any good, whereas trusting the forces that call us to move forward often ends up creating the best result for everyone involved.
“If you look back in history,” Maslan says, “there are so many examples of people having to ward off great negativity and roadblocks as they forged toward their lofty ideas and inventions….Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done and walk toward it every single day. Then when your dream is finally realized from your powerful intention and action, go ahead and share your excitement with the world. I assure you that old criticism will shift to applause.”